Color Code

We all know it's wrong to judge people by the color of their skin. The American way is to accept each individual on his or her own merits. But today that seems to be changing. In some circles it's becoming acceptable to define people by their race. You'll hear it said, for example, that black people ought to think only certain ways, talk only certain ways, listen only to certain kinds of music. There are even people who say blacks and whites ought to be socially segregated. Who's saying these things? The Ku Klux Klan? The Neo-Nazis? No, the amazing thing is that many of the people talking this way about blacks are . . . other blacks. They want to set strict standards on what behavior is allowed in black culture. They've been called the Soul Patrol. The phrase was coined by a reporter named John Blake, when black co-workers labeled him an Uncle Tom. Why? For having too many white friends. "I exceeded my quota of white friends," Blake wrote bitterly in a recent article. It wasn't the first time Blake had run afoul of the Soul Patrol. It had happened once before, when he wrote a news article about a rift within the local black community. Threatening phone calls made it clear to him that admitting to problems in the black community is regarded as betrayal. Even as a youngster, Blake remembers being taunted because he enjoyed reading. Caring too much about academic skills is judged as "acting white." Of course, black people hate it when whites suggest that they're all alike. But in each other's company, Blake says, they will "relentlessly attack [any] black person who deviates from their notion of blackness." We all witnessed the Soul Patrol in action during the Clarence Thomas hearings. Leaders of black advocacy groups accused Judge Thomas of not being black enough, because his political views were not in lock-step with their own views. The same dynamic goes on at the personal level all the time, Blake says—and it's tearing the minority community apart. Some people defend the Soul Patrol as an expression of ethnic pride—pride in the uniqueness of black culture. And ethnic identity is a good thing: I'm proud of my own Swedish heritage. But enforcing strict conformity within ethnic groups can be dangerous—especially when it means putting people down for excelling in school or for holding different political views. The separatist mentality is even working its way into Christian circles. One black Christian leader urges his people to do business only with other blacks. But the church is one place where this kind of thinking emphatically does not belong. Yes, we should be sensitive to the needs of any group that has been discriminated against. And yes, black culture is in some ways different from white culture. Christians should be the first to encourage diversity because God made us all different. But even while we support individual differences, we also need to keep in mind our genuine oneness. We need to remember we are all children of a color-blind God.


Chuck Colson


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